It’s hard not to throw a bevy of puns when talking about New Zealand-born, London-based animation director Robert Strange. The work is in the name: strange. But it works. “My signature visual language is to feature bold, mind-blowing colors and design styles, complemented by a real emotional core,” Robert told It’s Nice That when we catch up with him on the heels of his BBC 6 Music project. “Humor and emotional depth create a feedback loop that makes fun times more fun and exciting, scary, or sad times that much more resonant.” It’s an interesting balance that Robert strikes perfectly, and which has led to a multitude of successes. His work is truly fascinating and always rewarding to follow. “You can look at each different section of my recent film for BBC 6 Music and see how, despite the wildly different design styles, there’s a common thread running through it,” he says. “The film opens in a 1920s black and white rubber hose animation style a la Popeye or Betty Boop, but it fits the futuristic 3D animation sequence perfectly.” BBC 6 Music’s work (completed in just four weeks) shows just how varied Robert’s “disparate styles” are, “yet the tone and visual approach remain the same”, as the director tells us.
It’s not just BBC 6 that have been impressed with Robert’s artistry – his talents were also recently seen on BBC Three’s new idents when the channel was reintroduced to TV screens. “For all three BBC identities, we had a series of writers’ rooms in Blinkink Studios, which can be daunting, but it forced me to dive in, like conducting an orchestra of spirits,” says Robert. “Every project is different, so ideas come differently for each guy.” Part of Robert’s reference pack for his distinct animation relies on an undisputed classic: The simpsons. “It’s like the bible of modern animation,” he says. “I also like to look at cinematic references, like in the recent Mini Cheddars Crunchlets commercial, I combined Edgar Wright-esque quick cuts and zooms with very close references to skydiving sequences in Breaking point.” This array of references all align with Robert’s “slightly odd place” of humor, often straddling edgy and hopeful, sci-fi and reality, and more.